WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Tea Party movement appears to have produced its first official candidate for national office.
Tom Cox, the founder and chairman of the Arkansas Tea Party organization, announced at a rally on Monday that he will seek the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Blanche Lincoln.
Cox, who owns Aloha Pontoon Boats in North Little Rock, has never sought elected office before. But after organizing a large Tea Party protest against the administration's fiscal policies in April, Cox said a number of local activists approached him about entering the 2010 race.
"I just believe there is a growing movement across the United States to find candidates that are different, that are more business-minded and so forth because they are tired of our tax dollars beying wasted," he told CNN in a phone interview.
Cox brushed aside doubts about whether Tea Party fervor can be successfully harnessed by a political campaign. He said that unlike in other states, the Arkansas Tea Party effort is "very organized" and "not just anti-Obama." He also argued that because the Tea Party movement is "center of the road" on social issues and is primarily concerned with fiscal responsibility, his campaign will be primed to appeal to Democrats and independents.
"I'm sure I will be considered a long shot and a fringe candidate, but I can tell you, my family business has been in business for approximately 50 years," he said. "We will outwork anybody from Washington, D.C., and we will beat them at the grassroots effort in this state."
Before Cox can face Lincoln, he'll have to survive a Republican primary: State Sen. Kim Hendren has already declared he will seek the GOP nomination.